Reformation Sunday

For the first 1000 years of its existence, the Christian Church was one world-wide organization. There is disputation among church historians as to who was the first pope. As late as the fourth century, bishops from Alexandria, Constantinople, Rome and Jerusalem were vying for primacy amongst bishops.

In the eastern part of the world the Orthodox claimed to be the one true church from the beginning. To this day, all the oldest Christian congregations are Orthodox. In 1054 there began a split between Roman and Catholic Orthodox Catholic churches. This was sealed in 1450. Each now claims to be the original church.

Mysticism and superstition characterized much Christian teaching. Pope Leo X wanted to build a new Cathedral (St. Peter’s in the Vatican). Construction of the cathedral required vast sums of money. To raise that capital, the {Pope sent representatives throughout Europe selling indulgences. An “indulgence” guaranteed the release of a soul from purgatory. “Get grandma out of hell!”

To Martin Luther King, a Professor of New Testament at the University of Wittenberg, this was blasphemous. He challenged anyone to debate with him. German princes, who did not want good German money to go to Italy to build an Italian Cathedral, back Luther.

Luther held that everything in the teaching of the church should be based upon scriptures. To adopt that view would cause radical change in a church where all sorts of practices had crept into the life of the church and were dubbed “tradition.”

Soon, half of Europe had become “Protestant” (from the Latin “pro” meaning “for” and “testare” meaning “to witness or testify”). Protestants generally followed Luther or Calvin. Lesser lights had followers who developed churches such as Robert Browne, father of “Separatism” (Congregationalism) whose book REFORMATION WITHUT TARRYING FOR ANY motivated our Pilgrim Fathers who laid the foundation for the American nation.

Luther began the movement on October 31, 1517. The Sunday before or on November 1 is celebrated as Reformation Sunday.